Anthony Gordon Exclusive: 'Being A Good Person Is More Important Than Anything'

In an exclusive interview originally published in Everton's matchday programme for the meeting with Leicester City this month, Anthony Gordon talks about the lockdown lifestyle which led to his Merseyside derby debut… a transformational week in Spain two years ago… overcoming self-doubt... and the compliment from Carlo Ancelotti which meant more than any football recognition.

When this country was put into lockdown Anthony Gordon alighted on a plan.

Reluctant to expose stepdad Paul’s vulnerable immune system – the consequence of an underlying health condition – to a potential fight with coronavirus, Gordon moved out of the family home.

He entered an “army camp”. An “Unsy pre-season,” laughs Gordon. The context and relevance of that comment we will address later.

Gordon rented a house with four friends and committed to the spartan regime which led to a full Everton debut in last month’s Merseyside derby.

“It was the best idea I could have had,” starts Gordon.

“One of my friends, Callum Webb, is a personal trainer and trained us the whole time.


>>>SECURE YOUR EXCLUSIVE-PACKED LIMITED-EDITION PROGRAMMES FOR EVERTON'S FINAL TWO PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES OF 2019/20 BY CLICKING HERE>>>


“It was like an army camp – we were up early and doing two or three sessions a day.

“Callum, in my opinion, is one of the best in the city.

“I was lucky to have him there and he pushed me to my limits.

“My fitness levels went through the roof.

“I gained weight purely through muscle. I have been so sharp in training and not been getting tired, which is reward for all that hard work.”


An image posted on Webb’s social media accounts is testament to Gordon’s physical transformation, the 19-year-old’s formerly slender but undefined torso giving way to the sort of shredded frame an elite welterweight would be proud to call his own.

The changes in Gordon’s body have been matched in speed and significance by the player’s mental advances over the past two years.

He is mature beyond his years and Carlo Ancelotti noted how Gordon’s “character and personality” distinguish him from talented contemporaries.

Told of his manager’s praise, Gordon’s response lends weight to Ancelotti’s words.

“I pride myself on how I carry myself off the pitch,” says Gordon.

“I am a firm believer that, regardless of whether someone is talented or rich, whatever you think you are, none of it really matters.

“All that matters is what kind of person you are.

“That is one of the best things he [Ancelotti] could say about me, better than any compliment on my football.

“I try to make a good impression on people, always.

“For him to say something like that means a lot.

“My parents say to me all the time that I am mature for my age.

“I get a lot of people telling me that and it means so much.

“It is the best compliment I could receive.”

Gordon had three hours’ notice that he would make his first Everton start when Liverpool visited Goodson Park three weeks ago.

The teenager had read the runes in the days before, though, interpreting various training routines as messages he was odds-on to play from the beginning.

Gordon had been sharp as a tack at USM Finch Farm – footage from Everton’s post-lockdown sessions invariably featured a smorgasbord of accomplished finishes from the Club’s latest Academy graduate.


His confidence joined his fitness levels “through the roof” and the prospect of Liverpool and a duel with much-vaunted right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold prompted feelings only of excitement.

Gordon’s composure is plainly not an inherited trait. It was a shame, he confesses, that neither mum Nadine nor dad Keith could be at Goodison to witness a landmark day in their son’s life.

Younger brothers, 15-year-old Brandon and Reuben, six, neither of whom play football, had to watch from afar, too.

“The older one used to play but lost interest,” relates Gordon. “I couldn’t push him to play – he has to live his own life.”

Gordon chuckles as he discloses his mum was too wracked with nerves to watch the game.

“I found out at 4pm I was playing but from the beginning of the week it was in in my head I would be starting,” says Gordon.

“I wanted to be ready and mentally prepared.

“I was fine, there weren’t any nerves. I was ready to do my job.

“It was disappointing my mum and dad couldn’t be there but, to be honest, they are both nervous wrecks.

“When I got home my mum told me that at the start of the game, she had to go out the room, she couldn’t even watch it.

“They are both that nervous there’s no point them being there.”

Gordon was knee-high to a grasshopper when dad began hanging a tyre from goalframes to refine his son’s shooting.

“We’d practice in the park or garden, he had to keep buying new goals because I broke a few,” says Gordon, who confirms his first name is pronounced An-ther-nee.

“He set up challenges for me from when I was about five and took me to all my games. He got me started in football.


“I have a very close relationship with my mum, I always have done.

“She has been on every step of the road with me.

“They are definitely proud of me and trying to make my family proud is what motivates me.

“It is good when I come home and see them after such a big occasion [the derby] – that is what I do it for.

“It is amazing for them, they have been on the journey with me since I was a kid and are seeing the hard work and dedication paying off.”

Gordon encountered adversity early on that journey.

In hindsight, he views being released by Liverpool aged 11 through the prism of opportunity.

“It was another chance for me to grow,” says Gordon.

“But that was hard.

“It affected me mentally and dented my confidence.

“I had to pick myself up and go again.

“When I got to Everton, I never looked back.”

Gordon rates his 11-year-old self as a “good player”.

He was most happy creating and scoring from “number 10” but comfortable at striker or in centre midfield and “could fit in anywhere”.

Everton were on the phone to his mum soon after Gordon’s Liverpool disappointment and he treasures a picture of him in kit from his first day at Finch Farm.

“I was nervous, the players were regularly playing Academy games and I wasn’t,” says Gordon.

“The level was so high, I was nervous about being around it but soon got used to it.”

Teammates from Gordon’s first Everton side eight years ago were among those flooding his phone with congratulatory messages following the derby.

This video is for Season Ticket Holders and Official Members

Login to watch - you will need a free Digital Member account if you don’t already have one

If you already have an official club membership or season ticket and a Digital account, just login to watch the video.

If you do not yet have a Digital account, you can create one here for free.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

This video is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to watch

Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder or Official Member.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including priority tickets access and exclusive content.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

00:38

EVERTON WOMEN RETURN TO TRAINING IN hummel GEAR

Revamped squad dons hummel kit at USM Finch Farm.


His performance embodied the “sacrifice” Ancelotti identified as essential for Everton to match Liverpool.

The scorching pace, creativity and assured finishing, hallmarks of Gordon’s surge through the Club’s Academy, took a backseat to the fundamentals of toil and discipline.

“I like to be on the ball and making things happen in the final third but the game took us down a route where we had to sit in and defend as a team,” says Gordon.

“We had to hold our shape and were mentally and physically prepared to do a lot of running.

“I was up against Trent, who is dangerous if he’s given time and space.

“I had to be focused on stopping him and stopping Liverpool getting down my side.

“I was happy to do that job.”

Which bring us to that “Unsy pre-season”.


Gordon’s blistering first full campaign with Everton’s Under-18s, when he scored his goals at nearly one per game – and became the Club’s sixth youngest player with two minutes off the bench in a Europa League tie against Apollon Limassol – was rewarded with a summons to an Under-23s’ pre-season camp in La Manga.

David Unsworth, Everton’s Under-23 manager, ensured Gordon would forever recall his week training in broiling Spain in summer 2018.

A misplaced pass was punished with 10 press ups. If Gordon was running, he could run faster.

Gordon’s ears would be ringing with Unsworth’s disapproval were he so much as caught two yards out of position.

It was a classic piece of man-management. Unsworth identified Gordon as a player destined for Everton’s first team and this crash course in footballing discipline and responsibility was aimed at getting him there as quickly as possible.

Two years down the track and the player views those seven days as a critical staging post in his burgeoning career.

“He could be so harsh,” begins Gordon, “it was my first involvement with the Under-23s and it felt like an army camp.

“Physically and mentally I was drained.

“I hated every minute of it.

“But that week benefited me so much and I will always be grateful for it.

“Those are the situations where you mature.

“You have to stop being a kid and feeling sorry for yourself and grow up and become a man – become the player you are meant to be.

“Feeling sorry for yourself won’t get you anywhere.

“I matured into a man in that week.

“I developed a different way of thinking and different way of approaching the game.

“I knew he [Unsworth] rated me… the other players were regularly reminding me of that.

“We always had a good relationship off the pitch, it was just on the pitch he was hard on me.

“He always told me how good I was [laughs], although you forget about that when you lose the ball in 80-degree heat and he’s making you do push-ups.

“But he helped me become a mature footballer.”

John Doolan [now Everton Under-23 Recruitment Officer] was the first coach as Gordon progressed through Everton’s Academy to “tell me how it was… you need those sorts of people or you will never get better, he is a great man”.

Under-18 boss Paul Tait oversaw Gordon’s golden 2017/18.

This video is for Season Ticket Holders and Official Members

Login to watch - you will need a free Digital Member account if you don’t already have one

If you already have an official club membership or season ticket and a Digital account, just login to watch the video.

If you do not yet have a Digital account, you can create one here for free.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

This video is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to watch

Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.

Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.

Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.

To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder or Official Member.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including priority tickets access and exclusive content.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

02:27 Sat 11 Jul 2020

BRACEWELL ON KENDALL'S EXTRAORDINARY GESTURE OF FAITH

Midfielder won multiple honours with Everton before serious ankle injury.


“He was a coach who really made me feel like I was a good player,” says Gordon.

“He instilled so much confidence in me. I took it and ran with it.

“And he played a style of football which suited me, playing under Paul massively helped my game.

“It is so important to experience different coaches with different styles when you’re a young player.”

In the course of a half-hour conversation, Gordon repeatedly returns to the issue of confidence.

“It is still hard to believe,” he admits, following a long pause, to have the faith of a manager of Ancelotti’s towering stature.

“The biggest game you can play as an Everton player…”

Gordon tails off, leaving the words unspoken. And he picked me.

“It shows how far I have come,” Gordon resumes.

Not just since profiting from Unsworth’s tough-love two years ago.

He admits to a dip in self-belief only last season, when Gordon was caught betwixt and between, gnawing at the fringes of Unsworth’s team but outgrowing Under-18 football.

It was around this time he voiced his concerns separately to Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines.

The insight and advice Gordon received from the senior pair encouraged him to continue returning for more.

“They are such good leaders and unbelievable with me,” starts Gordon.

“I feel I can talk to them about anything.

“I spoke to them, along with my family and my agent, who I am really close with.

“Leighton and Seamus are so approachable and such nice people.

“I often talk to them, even about details that might seem small but could take me a long way.

“Seamus, for example, tells me I should use a certain movement more often; when I come to the ball, then go away in behind.

“He says, ’Use your pace, you are powerful, no defender likes running towards their own goal.

“I went through a lot of stages in my youth career when I lost a lot of confidence.

“But that is natural… managing ups and downs and losing confidence then recovering it helps you grow and mature as a player as you come through the youth system.

“You learn from your mistakes.

“Being around first-team players and taking advice, my confidence has grown and grown.

“I understand more of what the manager wants from me.

“I am playing with freedom and that is enabling me to perform as I should.”

Every one of his teammates, says Gordon, spoke to him in the minutes before facing Liverpool.

Ancelotti implored his debutant to “enjoy it, focus and work hard”.

Coleman and fellow defender Mason Holgate reminded Gordon of his exceptional training-ground form.

“Don’t forget how good you are, you deserve to be here, be confident in yourself”, they urged.

Communication from colleagues – in particular left-back Lucas Digne, “a great person and a leader” – “did not stop during the game”.

Gordon’s head remained completely on the task at hand and he was always available for a pass.

If something didn’t come off, Gordon did not shy away from trying again.

“I am an attacking player and have a lot of confidence in myself,” continues Gordon.

“If you are trying to create things, you will give the ball away.

“You have to accept it and move on, you can’t change it.

“I am always trying to be positive. If I lose the ball, I lose the ball.

“That is something I am really keen on.

“At least I am trying to move the team forward and create things.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned playing in the Premier League is you need to take your chances, you don’t get many.

“And if you delay a through ball a split-second, the chance is gone, I missed a couple because I delayed them.”

Number 10 remains Gordon’s favourite position but he is “not too fussed” where he’s used.

Growing up he was spellbound by Mesut Ozil, notably when the now Arsenal player was pulling the strings for a fabulous young Germany team at the 2010 World Cup.

“He was unbelievable,” says Gordon. “His touch and technique were incredible.

“I loved watching him, he was the main number 10 I admired.

“That Germany team was brilliant.”

Gordon was sitting his GCSEs at Wade Deacon High School three summers ago.

“Mad,” he says, summing up how briskly life has changed.

“I wasn’t too naughty at school, but not especially good, either.

“I started at Alsop High School, where I wasn’t the best behaved, then Everton moved me to Wade Deacon.

“I matured there and was much quieter.

“Football was my life and I was confident I would make it someday.

“I haven’t yet. But I am working hard to reach that point.”


Gordon was caught up replying to messages after the derby – the player muted his phone early and was so intent on remaining focused his parents were asked to wait for team news along with the rest of us – and forgot to get his shirt signed by teammates.

He is planning to rectify that very soon.

“I have mementoes on display but all my family members ask for memorabilia,” says Gordon.

“I give it away quite often, my mum, dad and uncle deserve it as much as me.

“I don’t mind letting them have it.”

This very impressive young man’s family would be well advised to prepare for a rush of keepsakes coming their way.


>>>SECURE YOUR EXCLUSIVE-PACKED LIMITED-EDITION PROGRAMMES FOR EVERTON'S FINAL TWO PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES OF 2019/20 BY CLICKING HERE>>>